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As COVID and stress increase in Niagara County, so do domestic abuse cases

WBFO file photo/Chris Caya

Niagara County officials report an uptick in domestic abuse cases, and they believe the stress brought on by living under the restrictions imposed under the COVID-19 pandemic are playing a part. The District Attorney is also reminding victims that even under the extraordinary circumstances, help has not gone away.

DA Caroline Wojtaszek, during an appearance Monday on Lockport Community Television, said that according to numbers gathered by Acting Sheriff Michael Filicetti, there were 674 cases of domestic abuse cases in the county in the first quarter of 2019. During the same time period this year, including time when individuals have been ordered to work from home and maintain social distancing while in public, there were 773 cases recorded.

The DA stated that about half of the daily arraignments they're now conducting are domestic abuse cases.

"It's not just physical abuse. It's verbal abuse. It's emotional abuse. It's financial abuse. It's sexual abuse, and it can be animal abuse. So it takes a lot of forms," Wojtaszek said. "And when you add stress to people's lives and isolation, this can happen."

The DA recognized many stressors including feeling cooped up at home, having to help kids with school, the loss of a job, and other disruptions to life as everyone knew it.

What she wants victims or those acquainted with victims to know is that while most of society has shut down during the pandemic, those who assist victims are still working.

"A lot of our social service agencies have gone to great lengths to maintain a continuity of services to the best of their ability," Wojtaszek said. "For example, our shelters and alternative housing still remain open."

Wojtaszek offered two numbers during her television appearance. The YWCA Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Hotline is available at (716) 433-6716. Pinnacle Community Services, which hosts a 24/7 hotline and a shelter, may be reached at (716) 299-0909. Further agencies may be found on the 211 WNY website.

"What I don't want anyone in the community to think is that society's closed down and those services have closed down, because that's just not accurate," Wojtaszek said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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